The Houston Rockets attempts to shed Thomas Robinson's salary in hopes of signing Dwight Howard this summer could involve the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Chicago Bulls, who hold the Nos. 19 20 picks in Thursday night's NBA Draft.
The Rockets haven't tried to hide the fact that they're interested in dealing last year's No. 5 overall pick, who is owed $3.5 million next season. It was reported earlier this week that the Rockets were in "advanced talks" and that they were looking for a first round pick in return. With that first round pick, the Rockets would be expected to select an international player so they can keep him overseas and avoid the salary guaranteed to first-round picks playing in the NBA.
A new report from ESPN's Marc Stein is the most solid report of two potential deals, though, as the Cavs and Bulls are both apparently interested in trading Robinson for a pick straight up. The Cavs make sense as they're about $20 million under the salary cap, but the Bulls bit is more confusing as they already owe players $77 million for next season. That'll put them over the salary cap, too, so they'd likely have to do some additional maneuvering to take on Robinson.
Don't take Robinson's NBA career thus far -- from being a No. 5 pick to a player being dealt for a No. 19 or No. 20 pick -- as a sign he isn't a good player. He's just been the unfortunate victim of a pair of teams trying to shave financial commitments. The Kings were clearly trying to dump salary in dealing Robinson alongside Francisco Garcia and there's literally no motivation for the Rockets to move Robinson besides their desire to make a free agent splash this summer.
Robinson's still a 22-year-old 6'10 power forward with great rebounding instincts and maybe a trade here finds him a place where he can play enough minutes to prove his worth. The Cavs definitely fit that description as they build around younger players, although its tough to foresee minutes on the Bulls with Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson in the fold.
Update: if Robinson were traded to Chicago, we'd hope he doesn't get too comfortable: Marc Stein reports that they'd just be looking to flip him in another deal as soon as possible. Poor kid. But that honestly makes the most sense given the Bulls' cap situation and rotation.